A 'Jenny Wren' remembers VE Day

An 89-year-old former member of the Women's Royal Naval Service talks about her 'greatest celebration ever' – VE Day in Plymouth.

"I suppose the greatest celebration I ever experienced was VE Day in 1945. I was serving in the Wrens at Devonport and had to work that morning.

"There were no strangers on that day"

"The radio was continually on. I was so excited and bursting with anticipation, at last my watch ended and I headed back to my quarters with a couple of friends."

A working party of Wrens scrubbing out a boat, December 1941, Plymouth © IWM (A 7033)

"We raced along to Plymouth, Service men and women, everyone calling out as we passed. The pubs were crowded and the pavements were packed with people swilling beer from jam jars as glasses had run out. We were crying and laughing together there were no strangers on that day.

We made our way up to Plymouth Hoe. It was so crowded, we had to push and shove our way through to the wall so that we could look down to the road below. We heard 'Hi Jenny' and plenty more besides(!) coming from all sides."

A Wren at the wheel, December 1941, Plymouth © IWM (A 7038)

"We looked down. I had never seen so many people jostling along by the sea. Plymouth Sound sparkled in the dazzling sunlight – even the weather was celebrating. Ship sirens sounded and some tugboats had their hoses turned on.

"Although I had been up since 4am, I don't remember feeling tired"

Suddenly, a convoy of jeeps and trucks was trying to get through the dense mass of bodies. It was a bread delivery and the crowd began to throw the bread around – everyone was just crazy. The afternoon wore on and although I had been up since 4am, I don't remember feeling tired. We were constantly singing and dancing."

Marion Richards, a rating of the Women's Royal Naval Service in Plymouth, shows a sailor from a moored destroyer how to wash clothes using a bucket in November 1944 also in the photograph is June Saunders (left) of Cambridge and Anne Russel (right) © IWM (A 26515)

"When it began getting dark, bonfires were lit all over the Hoe. I have no idea what was being burnt but I do know the sailors were throwing their hats on the fire! I could imagine what the Chief would have to say about that.

Time caught up with us. The war in Europe was over, but we still had a curfew back in quarters. We struggled away from all the excitement.

"The following day I came down to earth, remembering those I had lost: cousins in the London 'Blitz', another cousin in the Pacific, a boyfriend in the Royal Marines, and so many more..."

Every street was alive – bonfires were burning on the vast devastated bomb sites. It took us an hour to get back home, and yes we were late and we were in trouble!"

"Although I have had many wonderful celebrations over the years, I will always remember every minute of that wonderful, wonderful event in 1945."

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